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18 PIER PARK Pier Park, on

Increasingly, individuals have become concerned about the possibility that they may under surveillance by operators of drones. Gary Andrews is here to help. He has developed a drone-detecting app, available for free.

Expansion underway at Panama City’s deepwater port has been projected to generate an annual economic benefit of more than $125 million and create 63 jobs. In store is a new forest products terminal.


Patterned after a similar initiative in Nashville, a group made up of business leaders and educators is working to improve the chief product of Bay County schools: high school graduates.

12 EDUCATION Florida State

University-Panama City, Gulf Coast State College and Haney Technical Center are all working to gear curriculum and degree and certificate programs to the anticipated needs of employers.

anyone seeking a more formidable online presence, Mica Specialties is a one-stop shop. The business offers services ranging from website design and digital advertising to search engine optimization and social media marketing.

Panama City Beach, bills itself as the premier shopping, dining and entertainment district in Northwest Florida and one that has had both financial and social impacts.

20 M ILITARY Defense activities

play a major role in Bay County’s economy — and that contribution is expected to grow. Overall in 2014, the military accounted for about $2.4 billion or 30.6 percent of the total gross regional product.


The health care technology company, Jellyfish Health, has plans to create 100 news jobs with an average salary of $70,000 — and to do something about those insufferable lines in doctor’s offices.

ON THE COVER: For people and businesses who believe that they may be beset by drones, DeTect, a Bay County business led by CEO and president Gary Andrews, pictured here, has taken to market an app that uses smartphone Wi-Fi to detect low-flying objects — other than birds. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL BOOINI

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DeTect develops a free phone app to protect your privacy by LINDA KLEINDIENST


woman comes in with a problem. She’s concerned her neighbor is spying on her with a drone. But she can’t afford to spend the thousands it would cost to buy a commercialgrade drone detection system. What do you do? Develop an app, of course. And that’s exactly what the tech experts did at DeTect, a Panama City company that specializes in applied, intelligent radar and related remote sensing technologies and systems that are used by governments, businesses, airports and others for aviation 4 / 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

safety, security and surveillance, drone defense, environmental protection and renewable energy. “Inquiries (about drone surveillance) have come in from individuals the last couple of years,” said Gary Andrews, DeTect’s president and CEO. “These drones can be bought off Amazon and be flying within 20 minutes after coming out of the box. People are concerned about neighbors peeking in their windows.” Founded in 2003, DeTect began by manufacturing and selling radar systems to protect aircraft from damaging bird strikes

that can result in crashes and fatalities. The company’s first customer was the U.S. Air Force, which purchased eight systems that have saved millions of dollars in damage costs. Even NASA has used the system during shuttle launches. The same technology is being used to protect birds flying into wind farms (by shutting down the turbines when flocks arrive and restarting them when the birds leave) and warning birds away from toxic industrial waste ponds (a system being used in Canada). Other products developed by DeTect include security and surveillance radars and wind-speed

“For individuals worried about drones around the house, they can now download the app for free. We now have it out in 32 countries, including places like South Africa, Egypt, Australia and Brazil.” — GARY ANDREWS, DETECT’S PRESIDENT AND CEO


Senior technician Tim West tests a connection. He is among 55 employees of DeTect, which is finding new, practical applications for radar technology.

measurement technology. More than 290 radar systems are operating worldwide. Andrews said the global economy has kept the company’s revenues flat the past couple of years, but “the exciting thing is that drone (detection) will become a superhigh-growth market for us.” DeTect has 55 employees who earn an average of $55,000 to $56,000 a year. Some of them have worked together for 20 years. The drone detection app, called DroneWatcher and available on Google Play, was developed by using smartphone Wi-Fi to detect low-flying objects. Because of the

company’s longtime experience with radar, it is able to filter out birds while scanning out from one-quarter to a half mile for an intrusive drone. The app records the drone type, its ID number and other information that can be used by law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute wrongdoers. “For individuals worried about drones around the house, they can now download the app for free,” Andrews said, although he added that in exchange for getting the free program, the company will be collecting the data. “We now have it out in 32 countries, including places like South Africa, Egypt, Australia and Brazil.” If multiple phones are using the app at a sporting or entertainment event, they can create a network that covers a wide area that can provide displays and early warning of drone incursions, with visual and audible alerts and text messaging. DeTect is already planning to use the system at two college football games this fall. Security and parking lot attendants will be given phones with the app to develop the network. “Terrorism is a concern, but they’re more worried about someone doing stupid things, like trying to get a picture of the game from over the field or flying a drone into and hurting someone in the stands, or recording a live show and then selling the video,” Andrews said. A more sophisticated version of the program that customers will pay for is able to detect more than 95 percent of the commercially available drones on the market out to as much as 2 miles. This could be a tool that a customer such as a prison could use. “It’s a Wild West out there with drones,” Andrews explained. “Prisons are experiencing a lot of instances where drones are being used to drop contraband, even weapons, in prison yards.” The company is also setting up a system along Panama City Beach as a test that

would allow police to more easily monitor drone activity along the beach and at nearby condominiums, where residents are worried about snooping drones that could invade privacy and cause damage. While the free drone app is the most exciting recent news, Andrews said the company’s biggest seller remains its bird radar. And it is developing a new product called an aircraft-detection lighting system. The idea is to better regulate airport warning lights on the tall turbines at wind farms. When the system detects an airplane within 10 miles of a turbine, it will track it until it gets within 3 miles. At that point the lights will be activated. They’ll be turned off again when the plane is out of range. “We’re ahead of this market,” Andrews said. “One customer in the Midwest wants it installed on 19 wind farms. We already have them in Arizona, New Jersey and Canada. And three will be installed in Sweden later this year.”

CEO and President Gary Andrews

2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 5

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The addition of a forest products terminal at Port Panama City is projected to create 63 jobs. The project will include construction of a 250,000-squarefoot warehouse.

EXPANSION PORT Port Panama City seeks to expand its capacity by JASON DEHART



wo ports are better than one in Bay County. Today, Port Panama City is doubling down on its capacity with the recent purchase and upcoming development of a modern “forest products” terminal on a nearby 41-acre industrial waterfront tract formerly owned by WestRock. The port acquired the mostly vacant land on May 3 from the company, which operates a corrugated packaging mill on adjoining property. More to the point, the deal comes with a 920-foot ship berth and 160,000 square feet of warehouse space. Plans call for development of a state-of-theindustry forest products terminal, including the construction of a new, 250,000-squarefoot warehouse for wood pulp, kraft linerboard and other goods. The terminal will also feature a 48-car-capacity rail yard, a renovated berthing area with a 38-foot draft and reinforced bulkhead, and a 10-acre storage area, according to port director Wayne Stubbs.

“This is a huge step forward in enhancing Port Panama City’s already impressive abilities to handle forest product cargos,” Stubbs said. “Exports of paper and wood pellets helped propel Port Panama City to a record year in 2015, with more than 2 million tons of cargo moving across our docks. This acquisition and terminal project position our port to handle sustained growth for many years to come.” Port Panama City bought the 41 acres for $13.6 million. The deal was financed through the Florida Department of Transportation’s State Infrastructure Bank, and the port has secured an option to buy an additional 27 acres for another $6 million. “We’re starting with a blank page,” Port Authority chairman Don Crisp said. “It’ll be a real good opportunity to bring some jobs to Bay County.” Stubbs estimated that the expansion will provide an economic benefit of more

than $125 million annually and bring in 63 direct jobs and another 130 indirect jobs. The project is expected to almost double the working acreage of the port. The port has the support of a $4.25 million Florida Department of Transportation grant and is proceeding with $12 million of first-phase terminal projects. An additional $9 million, half from FDOT, is earmarked for bulkhead work and rail and roadway improvements. Meanwhile, a $10 million effort to deepen the channel from 32 to 38 feet has received approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Half of the money is federally funded, and the work is expected to be complete in 2018. Grieg Star Shipping, a longtime shipper of forest products via Port Panama City, is enthusiastic about the developments. “We at Grieg Star are very excited about the port’s investment in a breakbulk forest-products terminal and the necessary dredging to help fulfill its potential,” said Andy Powell, Atlanta-based vice president and general manager of Grieg Star Shipping. “We know that this has been a lot of work for Wayne and his team to bring things to this point and really applaud their efforts.” 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 7


BAY COUNTY DEMOGRAPHICS POPULATION JULY 2015 (ESTIMATED) — 181,635 PERCENT CHANGE FROM 2010 — 7.6 percent UNDER 18 YEARS — 21.6 percent 18-64 YEARS — 62 percent 65 AND OVER — 16.4 percent VETERANS — 22,869 PERCENT IN POVERTY (ALL AGES) —15.8 percent




Neil Patterson, a retired saturation diver now employed at the Naval Surface Warfare Division, Panama City Division, readies equipment for diving bell training procedures.



TOTAL EMPLOYMENT (2014) — 60,513 UNEMPLOYMENT (JUNE 2016) — 4.7 percent AVERAGE ANNUAL WAGE (2014) — $38,857 (Florida — $44,803)

Tyndall Air Force Base Naval Support ActivityPanama City Bay District Schools Bay Medical Center Walmart and Sam’s Club

Bay County Board of Commissioners Eastern Shipbuilding Gulf Coast Medical Center Gulf Coast State College City of Panama City

Sources: Bay County Online, U.S. Census Bureau

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Initiative has begun the work of building a better high school graduate by STEVE BORNHOFT


amie, a Jinks Middle School student in Panama City who is built like onetime Chicago Bear William “The Refrigerator” Perry, was stuck in eighth grade. He had repeated that year and, even at that, had catch-up work to do during his summer break in order to qualify for a promotion to high school. 10 / 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

Jamie, however, lacked the tool — a computer with internet access — that he needed to complete the remediation task and thus was at risk of being held back again. That is, until he met up with Bay County School Board member Ginger Littleton at a SeaPerch competition coordinated by Littleton in her role as a tireless promoter

of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. SeaPerch, a program of the U.S. Navy and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, involves building a submersible, remote-controlled platform. Jamie stood out for Littleton given his large size — and his adeptness with a soldering

Alignment Bay County vice chairman and Bay County School Board member Ginger Littleton has found that opportunities to participate in activities including STEM camps may stimulate students — and reveal talents — in ways that classroom instruction does not. Here, students put submersible robots through their paces at the conclusion of a SeaPerch summer camp, a program of the Office of Naval Research.


In identifying goals aimed at improving K-12 public education outcomes in Bay County, Alignment Bay County is starting with the fundamentals. Attentiveness is desirable, of course, but it can’t happen without attendance.

iron. She took an interest in him and became familiar with his circumstances. “There was no way that Jamie was going to go back to the eighth grade again,” Littleton said. “Unless we made it possible for him to advance, we were going to lose him.” Littleton saw to it that Jamie was supplied with a surplus district computer and an AirCard, connecting him with a far brighter future than he otherwise would have had. Stories like Jamie’s have led Alignment Bay County, which Littleton sees as a “product improvement initiative,” to establish connectivity as a focus for its Middle and High School Committee. Patterned after a comparable 10-year-old program in

Nashville, Tennessee, the fledgling Alignment Bay County is uniting business leaders, educators and public officials in an effort to enhance “school success, children’s health and the success of the community as a whole.” “Our premise is that if we get the education system humming, other good things will follow,” Littleton said. “Attractive businesses will not want to move to Bay County if the education system sucks. Ramping up education is the place to start.” Littleton is the vice chairman of Alignment Bay County’s governing board of directors, which is chaired by Guy Tunnell, a former Bay County sheriff who is now a county commissioner. Turning out widgets is one thing, Littleton said, but producing high school graduates prepared to serve their community as assets is quite another. “It gets complicated,” Littleton said. “Students have baggage that may include health issues, poverty or parents who are not equipped to be parents. We’re all in this together, we’re all invested in the product, so let’s all figure out what we can do collectively to make it the very best product possible.” That can mean getting children to school in the first place. Combating absenteeism is the chief goal of Alignment Bay County’s

early education and elementary education committees. “We have a huge number of students who fall by the wayside because they simply are not in class,” Littleton said. “And a truancy officer can do only so much. We need posters and media campaigns, and we need to incentivize students to come to school. We need to create a culture in which the business owner who finds little Johnny in his store at 10 in the morning takes action and asks him, ‘Where should you be?’ ” To date, Alignment Bay County has received funding from the Bay County Commission, the school district, Gulf Coast State College and private foundations. Littleton said the effort has completed its start-up phase and has matured to the point where it is “grinding out the work.” Still, Alignment Bay County is looking for committee members who are prepared to “bring something to the table other than their checkbook.” Anyone interested in helping out is encouraged to visit alignmentbaycounty. org and click on the “Participation” tab. “We have the resources in this community to see to it that Jamie doesn’t get lost and instead winds up enrolled in, let’s say, the new Unmanned Vehicle Systems program at Gulf Coast State College,” Littleton stressed. 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 11


BUILDING A WORKFORCE GCSC, FSU-PC and Haney Technical anticipate employers’ needs by STEVE BORNHOFT


ohn Holdnak ruminates about programs that Gulf Coast State College is adding at its Advanced Technology Center, and he finds himself reflecting on the Tom Swift adventure novels he read as a boy. Tom, the boy inventor, was into science, technology, engineering and math long before STEM education became cool and his creators, the writers who contributed volumes to the Tom Swift collection from 1910 to 2007, have proved startlingly prescient. Remarkably, “Tom Swift and His Photo Telephone” was published in 1912. Today, Gulf Coast has received the necessary accreditation and sign-offs from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is adding associate degree programs in unmanned vehicle systems and additive manufacturing, essentially 3-D printing. “I recently met a 19-year-old entrepreneur who was making a good living with his aerial photography business, but his mother felt that he should pursue college,” Holdnak said. “When he became aware of FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requirements for drones and the fines for

non-compliance, he decided that our UVS program might be a good idea.” The program, which is the first in Florida, will address unmanned vehicles suited for air, land and sea. Students, Holdnak said, will learn how to program and use the vehicles and to outfit them with cameras and various sensors. Applications include search-andrescue operations, wildfire suppression, identifying navigation hazards, SWAT team exercises and “finding things that fall off ships.” So it is that GCSC is working with law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers and other entities in creating and refining the program, which enrolled its first students this fall. Unmanned vehicle systems, Holdnak believes, have the potential to be transformational, as “disruptive” as smartphones have been. The Additive Manufacturing Program is part of an effort, Holdnak said, to ensure that Bay County is geared up to provide employees equipped to work for high-tech manufacturers known to be coming to town. Haney Technical Center and Florida State University-Panama City will be part of the same effort. “The 3-D printers we have in place at the ATC are baby steps compared to what’s coming,” Holdnak said. “We’re talking about equipment that can produce airplane parts. What’s next is an ability to print with polymers and metal at the same time. It will be possible to print and engine with all the wiring in place making them lighter An FSU-PC student uses a micrometer to measure blood spatters to determine the place of origin.

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and providing for greater efficiency. This seems like science fiction, but it’s real. We intend that Bay County become a hub for additive manufacturing innovation.” Gone soon will be the days when manufacturers had to retool. Instead, they will find themselves simply keying in another set of codes. Across Collegiate Drive from GCSC, Florida State University, too, has new degree programs including Nurse Anesthesia and Crime Scene Investigation. Charla Perdue, who heads up the CSI program, is not just a resident faculty member — one of the more than 40 that FSU-PC now employs — but is as homegrown as they come. She graduated Bay High School, earned an associate’s degree at Gulf Coast State College, then collected a certificate in underwater crime scene investigation, a bachelor’s degree (criminology) and a master’s degree (criminal justice studies) at FSU-PC. Perdue refers to a FARO Focus 3-D Laser Scanner as casually as most might mention a microwave. FSU owns such a device, which, Perdue explains, “takes a 360-degree picture of everything it sees.” The tool is used to precisely document and measure crime scenes and to produce animated presentations for use in court proceedings. Bay County area law enforcement agencies lacking FARO Focus know to call on Perdue, who meets their documentation needs as a public service. In such a way, she has gotten to know police departments and sheriff’s offices that today supply her with many of her students. The CSI program, she said, attracts both officers looking to burnish their credentials and students looking to enter the field of law enforcement. CSI students complete their book learning remotely and take five labs on campus or in the field. Activities include investigating a shooting scene, viewing an autopsy, excavating


a burial site and cataloging skeletal remains. In all of that, Perdue impresses upon her students the words of forensic scientist — and Manhattan Project participant — Paul L. Kirk, who found that “physical evidence cannot be wrong, cannot perjure itself and cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study it and diminish it can diminish its value.” The addition of a highly specialized major such as CSI and master’s degree studies in nurse anesthesia at FSU-PC has influenced recruiting efforts because the programs are capable of drawing students from around the country, said Erica Martin, a campus marketing coordinator. And the programs have influenced the campus to commit to the construction of its first dormitory, expected to be ready for students in 2018. Launched along with CSI in 2015, the nurse anesthesia program, in its first year, attracted students from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Washington, D.C. FSU-PC’s status as a four-year institution, effective with the fall 2013 semester, has led recruiters to spend more time on high school campuses. “We don’t have a larger freshman class, but our freshmen are of an extremely high caliber and they come here knowing exactly what they want to achieve,” Martin said.

At Haney Technical Center, too, nursing is a factor in growing enrollment. In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed a budget that included $1 million for the expansion of Haney’s licensed practical nursing (LPN) program. The money will be used to renovate an existing campus building to add LPN classrooms and labs and double enrollment in the program to 100. Demand for the program is high. Currently, 60 percent of applicants are turned away due to limited space. Haney also is tuning up its aviation academy. In August 2015, the campus took delivery of a retired F15-C Eagle from Tyndall Air Force Base; the aircraft is being used as a teaching tool for aviation students. In December of last year, Haney renovated an old welding classroom, transforming it into a new airframe lab. And in June, Haney and Embry Riddle signed an articulation agreement that will grant college credit to Haney students completing FAA certified airframe and power plant certificate programs. The investment in aviation, said Haney Director Ann Leonard, reflects the anticipated arrival in Bay County of employers in the aerospace industry. A rapidly changing world, said Holdnak, led GCSC to establish a Navigator Program,

Crime Scene Investigation students at FSU-PC inventory skeletal remains as part of a field laboratory exercise. Students learn to document and preserve evidence.

which will place career counselors employed by the college on five Bay County high school campuses and in Gulf and Franklin counties. The counselors will work with high school students and middle school students and their parents to “help our young people figure out what they want to do when they graduate high school,” said Holdnak. “If you’re serious about a career in science, medicine or technology, you need to make sure in middle school that you are taking the right sequence of math courses.” In some cases, preparing for such careers starts even earlier. Holdnak stopped by a summer STEM camp conducted at GCSC and listened to a student who would be entering the fourth grade in August speak about what he took away from the experience. “He used terms like buoyancy and displacement — and he used them correctly,” Holdnak said. “The only prompt he needed was to speak louder so that the parents in the back could hear him.” And learn something. 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 13

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Most businesses today find that a robust digital presence is indispensable. Mica Services customizes its services to its customers after determining the best way for them to market themselves online.


Mica Specialties helps Bay County businesses embrace technology and Google by MATT ALGARIN



t’s Google’s world and we’re just living in it. Well, that may not be 100 percent true, but for business owners who want customers to find them online, it all comes down to their Google presence — and that’s where James Clemens and his team at Mica Specialties comes in. “A business today has to be online and has to be on that first page (of Google’s search results), if possible,” says the 46-year-old Clemens, who formed Mica Specialties with his wife, Gina, in 1992. Based in Panama City, Mica Specialties offers technology consultancy and IT services, as well as website design and digital advertising. When you dig a little deeper into the services offered by Mica Specialties, they are wide-ranging. From search engine optimization and search engine marketing

to digital and social media marketing, Mica Specialties is your one-stop shop for a complete online presence. When you start talking about how search engines work, it can be overwhelming to the average business owner. With terms such as meta tags, alt tags, anchor text and H1 tags, it can all sound like a foreign language. Clemens and his team in essence become a Google translator. “We offer a free consultation where we will go through the nuts and bolts of a company to see exactly what we can do for them,” Clemens said. “There are so many ways to do something for a business and so many ways for a business to be online.” At Mica Specialties, digital is the name of the game. When you talk about digital, it really doesn’t get much bigger than

Google. Think about it: How many times have you gone on the internet to search for something? Most people are going to use Google to search for a business, product or local restaurant. And when you think about your own search habits, you can attest to the fact that more than likely, you are not going to click through page after page of search results. As Clemens said, a business really wants to appear on the first page to page-and-a-half of results. That can be challenging when you think of how expansive the web is and how many businesses are out there trying to achieve the same results. Clemens has spent years mastering his craft and studying the ins and outs of Google, which is ever-changing, and how it works. Clemens, who has an infectious laugh, is essentially a Google guru. He and his colleagues at Mica Specialties are proud owners of The Google Partner badge, which means they have passed the Google AdWords product certification exam and are up-to-date on the latest in product knowledge. AdWords is essentially Google’s advertising system, which allows advertisers to bid on certain keywords in order for their 2016 B A Y C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 15

MICA SPECIALTIES | clickable ads to appear in search results. Clemens said being badged by Google is an achievement that only about 5,000 companies in the world have earned. That’s pretty impressive for a business in Panama City. In addition to the Google Partner badge, Mica Specialties is an official Google GYBO (Get Your Business Online) partner for Panama City and Panama City Beach. The goal is for Clemens to make sure every business in the community is included in the “Let’s Put Our Cities On The Map” initiative. GYBO allows businesses to be listed on Google Maps free of charge, which includes assistance from Mica Specialties. It may sound a bit like a latenight infomercial, but wait, there’s more. Clemens has also been recognized as a Google For Work partner, which means he can help a business better understand and take advantage of Google products so they can be more productive with professional email, online storage, shared calendars, video meetings and more. In July, Clemens was honored by Google as a “Rising Star” within the Top Contributors program. To earn this honor, Clemens had to display a long history of providing expert help to fellow Google product users in a friendly and professional manner that’s up to par with a level of high expectations and quality standards. The love of technology has always been something that’s pulsed through Clemens’ veins. As a 9-year-old in 1979, Clemens vividly remembers being at a garage sale with his parents and coming across a word processor that, plugged into the television, displayed words on the screen. “That really planted my love of technology,” he said. The rest is history. That love of technology still drives Clemens to continue learning and adapting to new trends in his field. “It’s a great field to be in because it’s always changing,” he said. “I love to learn.” While he works more than 60 hours a week, Clemens said he has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Given his good health and desire to help better his community, you will not hear the word retirement come out of his mouth in the near future. To learn more about Mica Specialties, visit

In addition to the Google Partner badge, Mica Specialties is an official Google GYBO (Get Your Business Online) partner for Panama City and Panama City Beach.

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One-stop shop has contributed to increased revenues and visitation in Bay County


n 2008, Panama City Beach introduced Pier Park and thus began an evolution of Bay County. Owned by Simon Property Group — one of the country’s leading commercial real estate groups that specializes in malls — Pier Park stretches over 900,000 square feet of land from U.S. Highway 98 to Front Beach Road. Now home to 124 stores, the al fresco shopping center by the beach has become the Emerald Coast’s one-stop shop for clothing, home goods, entertainment, dining and grocery needs. The centralized hub has helped reduce traffic congestion throughout the county by creating a large enough site for people to gather, with plenty of space to spare. “Panama City Beach is a long, skinny island, so before Pier Park, a lot of shops were spread out along a wide area,” says David Demarest, public relations manager at Visit Panama City Beach. “Pier Park has really helped Panama City Beach become a tourist destination.” Demarest notes a sharp increase in visitation to the area through event tracking alone. One of the major events in Pier Park happens to be the New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop, an event that attracted 15,000 spectators when it began in 2008. Over the

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past two years, attendance has grown to more than 40,000 celebrants. With other events such as the Pirates of the High Seas Festival and the Mardi Gras and Music Festival, Pier Park continues to attract more visitors each year. In conjunction with increased tourism, Pier Park has furnished the county with revenue. The gross receipt tax collected in Pier Park from the 2008–2009 fiscal year was just over $1.5 million. From 2014 to 2015, gross receipt taxes reached more than $2,135,000 — constituting about 18 percent of Panama City’s business tax receipts. Corresponding gross receipt taxes from other businesses within the city have grown from approximately $7,312,000 to $11,874,000 in the same 2008–2015 time period. The upward trends have contributed to a 10.58 percent increase in revenue to Panama City Beach over the past two budget years. In 2013, Pier Park expanded to nearby Back Beach Road, bringing restaurants, a sporting goods store and more shopping to a “Pier Park North.” “Pier Park North is part of the city of Panama City Beach and is not tracked

separately,” City Manager Mario Gisbert points out. “The additional retail square footage from Pier Park North has contributed to the increased revenues, as noted in double-digit growth in 2013–2015.” According to Michael Kerrigan, director of marketing and business development at Pier Park, the real impact Pier Park has had on the Bay County community has less do to with facts and figures. “All of the development that has taken place over the last 10 years has solidified the Pier Park area as Northwest Florida’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment district,” Kerrigan says. “Sales tax revenues, job creation and increased visitation are the first benefits that typically come to mind because they are easy to see and easy to measure. The social benefits, however, are equally impressive. Pier Park serves as the central socializing destination for Bay County, similar to the way a downtown would function within a community. People come here to take a break, enjoy time with friends and family, and to shop and be entertained. We are just as proud of that accomplishment as we are of the economic success that Pier Park has been able to sustain for the past eight years.”



Take your next step with Regions. Every accomplished goal starts with a first step. At Regions, we’re here to help support our Bay County community in taking those steps, through a strong leadership team, helpful guidance and friendly associates. We put our knowledge and resources to work each day, finding ways to help move you toward your financial goals. Our team is dedicated to Bay County and we will work tirelessly to help you get where you want to go.

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Military installations in Bay County include Naval Support Activity Panama City. Here, Navy rescue swimmers ascend a winch attached to a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter assigned to the Dragon Masters aviation unit at the Naval Surface Warfare Center located in Panama City Beach.


The military plays a huge role in the economy of Bay County compiled by JASON DEHART and STEVE BORNHOFT


ay County’s defense sector is a significant portion of the local economy and, as sabers continue to rattle across the globe, the U.S. Air Force and Navy bases stationed here aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The defense sector will continue to provide jobs and paychecks for the foreseeable future. Bay County’s military bases also serve as a catalyst for attracting a strong cluster of research activity, defense contractors and aviation and aerospace-related companies and supplies. Nearly every nationally recognized defense contractor, approximately 60 companies, has a presence in Bay County. Historically, air superiority and naval

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power have been used to project the nation’s power abroad, and Bay County is at the tip of the spear that keeps those two components ready for action. Tyndall Air Force Base, located in the southeastern part of the county, teaches the art of aerial warfare and is home to the 325th Fighter Wing, which trains F-22 Raptor fighter pilots and support crew. The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group also calls Tyndall home and conducts air-to-air and airto-ground weapons testing and evaluation. Meanwhile, Naval Support Activity Panama City provides research, development, test and evaluation, and in-service support for expeditionary, amphibious warfare, diving, maritime special operations, and mine warfare,

according to the Florida Defense Industry Economic Impact Analysis for 2015. According to the Bay Economic Development Alliance, The Naval Support Activity center accounts for $498 million in annual economic impact. It boasts 2,872 jobs and spans 657 acres with 234 buildings. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division accounts for $273 million in annual economic impact, provides 2,290 military and civilian jobs, features 862 scientists and engineers (381 of whom have advanced degrees), and occupies 74 buildings on 650-plus acres. Tyndall Air Force Base boosts the economy with $614.2 million, provides 6,471 jobs and spans 29,000 acres. All told, the defense aspect put an estimated 22,561 people to work in 2014 and forecasts predicted that number would rise to 23,861 in 2016. Tyndall got a boost in 2014 when 1,000 new jobs were added due to the arrival of a combat-coded F-22 squadron. According to the Florida Defense Industry Economic Impact Analysis published in 2015, defense activities play a substantial role in the Bay County economy.


Procurement accounted for the largest share at 34.1 percent or roughly $343 million of the $1.02 billion total. Salaries accounted for 33.2 percent, and transfers accounted for 32.3 percent. Overall, the military accounted about $2.4 billion in total gross regional product, which is roughly 30.6 percent of the county’s estimated 2014 Gross Regional Product. The total impact for the county is forecast to continue to grow between 2014 and 2018. Here’s the big picture. There are seven U.S. military installations within the 16-county area of Northwest Florida, all offering a stabilizing economic influence. Aside from the Tyndall and Naval Support Activity, there is a U.S. Coast Guard Station in Panama City, and Eglin Air Force Base, the largest base in the U.S. Air Force, is in nearby Okaloosa County. Other naval and aviation-related installations include Hurlburt Field, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Corry Field and Saufley Field. Approximately 35 percent of Northwest Florida’s Gross Regional Product is attributable to defense activities. According to the 2015 Florida Defense Factbook compiled by Enterprise Florida, defense activities in Northwest Florida generate an estimated 181,564 jobs and account for over $20.4 billion in gross regional product. The bulk of the impacts are generated by direct federal military (and civilian) employment, which accounts for nearly 54,000 direct jobs, followed by federal military procurement and transfer payments. The National Guard and Coast Guard account for 3,861 and 1,461 total jobs, respectively, in this region. Statewide, defense-related spending accounted for 775,000 jobs and a total gross state product of $79.8 billion. There are 60,155 military personnel and 30,358 civilians employed in the defense sector statewide. As Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) processes started to hit close to home some 20 years ago, the communities of Bay County faced a pretty big economic hit if its military industry disappeared. Community leaders realized early on, though, that Northwest Florida makes significant contributions to national defense. Fortunately, the Department of Defense came to the same conclusion — thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Bay Defense Alliance, a coalition of local economic leaders. The alliance made sure that national defense decision-makers realized the value of the region’s resources, including the massive Gulf of Mexico military ranges, and a coastal littoral region that provides a training analog for certain areas of the Persian Gulf.

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The last of the 314 QF-4s aircraft produced since 1998 landed at Tyndall Air Force Base in Bay County in November 2013. The QF-4s are used as unmanned full-scale aerial targets during training exercises.

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IMPROVING HEALTH TECHNOLOGY Jellyfish Health plans expansion in Panama City by LINDA KLEINDIENST

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Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said the company’s expansion is great news for job seekers looking for hightech opportunities in Northwest Florida, adding that innovative solutions like those provided by Jellyfish Health are “providing jobs and growing our economy while improving the lives of patients.” To help with the expansion program, jobs that will focus on software development, the company received a $750,000 grant from the Industry Recruitment, Retention and Expansion Fund administered by the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. The program, funded through the Oil Spill Recovery Act sponsored by Sen. Don

Gaetz of Niceville, has already resulted in 9,000 new jobs in the state. “The medical software field brings exactly the kind of business expansion we need in Bay County,” Gaetz said. “The company has a national market and has the potential to grow, prosper and contribute substantially to our community.” State Rep. Jay Trumbell of Panama City added that by companies like Jellyfish Health creating new jobs, it keeps Florida at the forefront of technology and “that makes us a top destination for business and talent.” Florida boasts one of the nation’s largest software and computer systems industries, with 14,100 firms that employ more than 84,400 industry professionals.



ellyfish Health, a health care technology company based in Bay County, has plans to create 100 new jobs with an annual average salary of $70,000 — more than 200 percent of the average wage in the county — and give a mighty boost to the local economy. Located in Panama City, Jellyfish Health uses technology to bring transparency to waiting times at health care facilities. The software allows patients to use their mobile devices to gauge whether a doctor or health care provider is running late on appointments. The program reduces wait times for patients, automates workflow for health care staff and boosts loyalty to health care facilities by creating a better patient experience. “Let’s face it, waiting sucks. And, what’s worse is it’s totally avoidable,” said Dave Dyell, president and CEO, in making the announcement. “Jellyfish Health is all about helping make life easier for patients and the caregivers that take care of them.” Clint Mizell, chairman of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, applauded the company’s decision to expand its operations in Panama City. “This is a company that could have expanded anywhere,” he said. “The fact that they are creating a significant number of high wage technology jobs in Bay County is a great win for our local economy.” And Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said the new workers will “help to add energy to our downtown area, aiding our revitalization efforts.” The project was made possible through partnerships between state and local agencies and governments. Cissy Proctor, executive director of the

Jellyfish Health, a health care technology company, is in the efficiency business. The company has developed software that reduces wait times for patients at health care facilities and automates workflow, thereby making for improved client experiences and customer loyalty.


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Profile for Rowland Publishing, Inc.

2016 Bay County Business Journal  

2016 Bay County Business Journal